College hoops on the horizon |

College hoops on the horizon

CNCC basketball team begins play

John Vandelinder

The Colorado Northwestern Community College men's and women's basketball teams begin nonconference play Nov. 5 against Central Wyoming. The Spartans, based in Rangely, play in the Scenic West Athletic Conference. CNCC begins league play Jan. 9 at home against the College of Southern Idaho.

If geography plays a roll in supporting a team, college basketball fans in Craig don’t have to go far to find one.

Colorado Northwestern Community College, based out of Rangely, plays in the Scenic West Athletic Conference, part of the National Junior College Athletic Association.

The Spartans mens and womens teams kicked off their respective seasons Saturday and Sunday at a pre-season exhibition tournament in Salt Lake City, Utah.

Head coach Stephen Garnett has his work cut out for him this year.

The 26-year-old first-year skipper is at the helm of both squads, in just his second year of coaching college hoops.

“It’s a long story,” Garnett said of how he became coach of both teams. “I was the assistant for the men’s team last year, and the women’s job opened in January so I volunteered. The head coach of the men’s team resigned in April, I was here and kind of wanted to get my feet wet, so now I’m coaching both teams.”

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In one year, Garnett went from assistant of one team, to head coach of two.

“I’m a young 26-year-old, and I don’t think there are many college coaches around that are 26 in any sport,” Garnett said. “I find myself as very lucky and very fortunate to even have the opportunity. A lot of it is a learning experience. This is my first time actually being the head coach and coaching, being able to call the shots and do things like that. Before I was just a basketball player; now I have to make the transition from a basketball player to coach.

“I wouldn’t trade it for anything in the world.”

Garnett tasted success as a player at Northern Arizona University from 2001-2005 as a three year starter for the Lumberjacks. During the 6-foot-4 player’s stint at NAU – playing all five positions – the Lumberjacks played a number of powerhouse schools including Pittsburg, Oregon, Arizona (ranked #1 at that time), Texas Tech, Oral Roberts, with two wins against UCLA and UNLV, respectively.

As coach, his task is now to help the Spartans taste success.

The women’s team went 0-3 over the weekend and the men, 2-2.

But, more important than earning wins early in the exhibition season, Garnett said he’s looking for the team to learn how the college system works before the “real” games begin Nov. 5.

“The girls didn’t do as well as we’d have liked, but they played three teams that they will see further down the road, which is great experience,” he said. “The guys did well, beating a couple of teams and losing a heartbreaker in overtime.

“Overall, it was a good trip for us because I feel that both teams got better and we actually start the season this Friday, so we’ll see how much better we got then.”

Coaching on the college level is more than scribbling X’s and O’s on a board.

Garnett has to recruit and build a team from scratch – a tough task when considering the hundreds of colleges fighting for the same prospects.

“The guys recruiting, I thought, went really good,” Garnett said. “We got a couple kids that we jumped on early and were lucky enough to have them sign letters-of-intent and come play with us. On top of that, we got a couple of kids from Colorado and had a couple of kids that walked on that really opened our eyes this weekend.”

Although Garnett was happy with his recruiting haul for the men’s team, he said the women’s incoming class didn’t shape out the way he had expected.

“It didn’t go as well as I would have liked it,” he said. “We lost a couple of girls to other schools. There are money issues and bigger schools going after them. I lost two girls to a Division I school, but that’s just part of the game that I have to swallow.

“You don’t always get what you want.”

Junior college basketball players normally have a two-year shelf life, and according to Garnett, the two fewer years he has to work with players is a big adjustment for him.

“Most of the kids can’t go straight to a Division I or a Division II school right out of high school because of grades,” Garnett said. “So most of the kids come here to a two-year school like CNCC first, graduate then go on to play at a higher level.”

The shorter amount of time available to work with his rosters forces a few subtle changes to how Garnett approaches practice.

“You can’t be as detailed on certain things because you don’t really have a long time like you do at four-year schools where you can have an offense that is very complex,” he said. “When you’re just at a two-year school, it’s different. Every year, you get new players and new faces that you have to teach all over again.”

His roster now set, schedule in print, all that’s left for Garnett is practice, practice and more practice.